Several municipalities in Bulgaria are cutting back on street lighting as electricity bills soar.
Announcements of the cutbacks by various municipalities in recent days come after, earlier this month, Bulgaria’s four largest cities – Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna and Bourgas – said that their street lighting bills had more than doubled on an annual basis in each of the last three months of 2021.
On January 14, the National Association of Municipalities raised the issue in a letter to Prime Minister Kiril Petkov.
Municipalities, as a non-household consumer, pursuant to item 33a of §1 of the Additional Provisions of the Energy Act, have concluded contracts for the supply of electricity at prices formed at the free market since July 2021, the letter said.
It said that the moratorium on the price of electricity, water supply and water services and heat on the regulated market imposed by the National Assembly does not apply to non-household customers, such as municipalities.
“The increased cost of energy affects at most the cost of street lighting in all municipalities and electric transport in bigger cities. It also affect the maintenance of schools, kindergartens and nurseries, social homes, municipal hospitals, etc,” the association said.
“The crisis puts local authorities in a deadlock. There is growing possibility that Bulgarian towns and villages will be left without street lightning, public transport will stop and the heat supply in municipal social, health and educational institutions will be suspended,” it said.
Nova Televizia reported this week that, according to unofficial information, more than 50 settlements in Bulgaria had cut back on street lighting.
The National Association of Municipalities said that while street lighting bills for 179 municipalities added up to 57 million leva in 2021, in 2022 the figure was projected to increase to 208 million leva.
Among municipalities to have confirmed cutbacks is Pomorie, which received a bill of 183 000 leva for street lighting in December 2021, compared with 68 000 leva in December 2020.
Smolyan municipality, which received a bill in December last year that was triple that in December 2020, is switching off its street lights between midnight and 5am.
Other municipalities that have confirmed cutbacks include Knezha in the Pleven district, Bratsigovo near Pazardzhik, Bolyarovo, Kostinbrod, Lukovit in the Lovech district, and Kirkovo and Ardino in the Kurdzhali district.
In Kirkovo, the street lights are switched off at 10pm and in Ardino, from 9pm to 6am.
Cutbacks in Gorna Oryahovitsa include switching off lighting in public parks and children’s playgrounds at night.
Gorna Oryahovitsa deputy mayor Nikolai Georgiev told local media that consideration was being given to replacing between 700 and 1000 150-watt lamps on main streets with 50-watt ones.
The town’s mayor, Dobromir Dobrev, called on the state to declare a moratorium on high electricity bills for municipalities.
Bulgarian National Radio reported that residents of the village of Dermatsi in the Kurdzhali district expressed concern that switching off street lighting at night would result in an increase in crime.
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